NO HAPPY ENDINGS By Angel Luis Colon
Down and Out Books
In July 2015, Angel Luis Colon introduced the world to Blacky Jaguar, a tornado of impulsive destruction dressed in a black leather jacket and wearing a pompadour. THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR was one of my favorite reads of last year, and I’ve been waiting impatiently for a follow-up from Colon. And now as 2016 draws to a close, Colon introduces us all to his newest creation: Fantine Park, the protagonist in NO HAPPY ENDINGS.
Colon seems to know all the coolest people. While Jaguar is an Irish thug who rains down destruction on the bastards (and the surrounding real estate) that stole his beloved car, Fantine Park is a bit more controlled. A Korean woman named after a character from the French novel Le Miserables, Park is a study in contrasts. While both characters are tough-talking, take no guff protagonists (I don’t think Colon is interested in examining traditional heroes), he lets the reader inside Park’s head much more than Jaguars’. When we first meet Park, it’s 2007 and she is having a celebratory whiskey at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. Celebratory, because she just single handedly pulled off the robbery of the Empire City Casino. Unfortunately, she never gets to spend a dime of her Ill-gotten gains, since the bar is surrounded by cops and she doesn’t make it off the premises as a free woman.
Fast-forward to 2012, and Park is a free woman visiting her father at his retirement home. Her mom may have taught her her skills as a master burglar before she died, but it’s Fantine’s relationship with her dad that provides the emotional grounding of the story. Their easy back and forth dialog is a bawdy joy to read. In a story that revolves around a planned sperm bank robbery, Colon skillfully pins the reader to Park’s very real relationship with dad. Without this real-world slice of believability, the fantastic aspects of the story would spin out of control.
Just as Park is getting comfortable on the outside, her father is taken hostage by a local mobster who had a partnership with Park’s deceased mother. It seems there is a sperm bank that caters to a very exclusive kind of client. The mob wants the… product… because of the estimated value of said product. Forced to proceed with no planning, no team, and really, no hope of success, Park has to figure out how to save her dad, beat the bad guys, and survive the ensuing storm of the century.
When it comes to giving the reader high action/solid characterization/believable motivations/outlandish situations, Colon is now two for two. It’s amazing just how much story he manages to pack into a novella length story. Every line of dialog, every plot point serves to move the story forward. This is lean and mean storytelling done right.
No conversation about NO HAPPY ENDINGS would be complete with out mentioning the cover art. This has to be one of the best pieces of cover art I’ve seen all year. Well done, Down and Out Books.